An Israeli-founded online gambling website received a record fine in the United Kingdom on Thursday for failing to protect vulnerable players.
The Gambling Commission fined the gambling website 888.com £7.8 million (NIS 36 million, USD $10 million), saying there were “significant flaws” in its system which allowed 7,000 customers who had voluntarily banned themselves from the site to continue placing bets, British media reported.
The technical failure allowed gamblers who had opted out of the casino, poker, or sports betting platforms to continue betting using 888’s bingo platform.
Customers who had excluded themselves, often as a means of dealing with their gambling addiction, placed a total of £3.5 million (NIS 16 million, $4.5 million) into their accounts, and bet almost £51 million (NIS 235 million, $66 million) in total.
The commission said the company failed to spot one customer’s “visible signs of problem gambling.”
In a 13-month period, that individual bet over £1.3 million (NIS 6 million, $1.6 million), including money stolen from their employer. During that time the customer gambled for three to four hours a day, placing an average of about 2,150 bets each day.
“The lack of interaction with the customer, given the frequency, duration and sums of money involved in the gambling, raised serious concerns about 888’s safeguarding of customers at risk of gambling harm,” the commission said.
Sarah Harrison, who led the inquiry, said: “Safeguarding consumers is not optional. This penalty package of just under £8m reflects the seriousness of 888’s failings to protect vulnerable customers.”
“The 888 sanction package will ensure those affected don’t lose out, that the operator pays the price for its failings via a sum that will go to tackling gambling-related harm and that independent assurance will be given to see that lessons are learned.”
In response to the fine, 888.com said it accepted the ruling and was “committed to providing players with a responsible as well as enjoyable gaming experience.”
The fine includes repayment of the £3.5 million (NIS 16 million, $4.5 million) deposited by the customers who had barred themselves from gambling and £62,000 (NIS 286,000, $82,000) to reimburse the employer from whom the money was stolen.
888.com is part of 888 Holdings, a publicly listed company registered in Gibraltar and traded on the London Stock Exchange. It was founded by Israeli entrepreneurs Avi and Aaron Shaked and Shay and Ron Ben-Yitzhak in May 1997.